It is entirely too early to consider who is and is not worthy of being a part of the 2016 MLB All-Star Game in San Diego, which is still off in the season’s horizon in mid-July. Any number of things could (and will) happen between now and then that will impact who heads to the Midsummer Classic, from injury to production surges, prolonged slumps and even simply losing out in a tight positional competition. The 2016 MLB All-Star Game and its competitors are a constantly changing, yet joyously debated, element of the first half of every season.
But that is not the spirit of what this list is all about. It is about checking the temperature of the stars of the game as they approach the quarter mark in the season. It has been a year of both phenomenal pitching performances from the usual suspects and some surprisingly potent offensive years from unlikely sources. The mainstays and former MVPs are still present, but new and emergent stars continue to stake their claim in the game of thrones for MLB superiority.
In the spirit of the election year and since the 2016 MLB All-Star Game ballots are officially open online, it is never too early to take a look at what each All-Star team could look like if the game was today.
The rules for determining this are straightforward and in line with the actual framework for selecting each league’s representative squad: 34 players per roster, with every team represented by at least one delegate. For practicality sake, those “he pitched on Sunday, so he is not eligible and will have to be replaced” rules are gone. This is the 34 best players in each league, as they fit onto a vastly premature All-Star roster.
For kicks, after each league a mock five-player “Final Vote” ballot is provided too, consisting of the five players who were the last cuts from each team.
So without further ado, here’s a look at the National and American League 2016 MLB All-Star Game rosters, in premature form.
Catcher—Yadier Molina, Cardinals
Reserve: Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
Molina bounced back nearly a full year in production at the plate throughout the first month of the season, closing out the month with a .341 average to go along with a .417 on-base percentage. His defense remains superb, and the eight-time Gold Glove winner remains a tour de force as a signal caller.
While his offensive numbers have come back to Earth a bit in May, he still carries a .319 mark, tops among all NL catchers. He is on pace for an eighth straight All-Star nod.
First Base—Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
Reserve: Brandon Belt, Giants
Rizzo is quietly delivering an MVP-caliber early season performance. After hitting only .218 in April, he has ripped into opponents since May 1 at a .417 clip and reached base in over 50 percent of his plate appearances. His season totals have him third in the NL in OPS and RBI as well.
Uncustomary slow starts from Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto have opened the window of competition for the next slot at first base, which Belt has seized by the neck. He is leading all players at the position in hits (36) and on-base percentage at .448.
Second Base—Daniel Murphy, Nationals
Reserves: Jean Segura, D’Backs; Ben Zobrist, Cubs
Murphy has continued to be a murderer at the plate early on in his Washington Nationals tenure, leading the NL in batting average (.398), hits (49) and checking in third in total bases. The punch he has provided has been a much-need compliment, as teams generally have begun to avoid pitching to Bryce Harper as often as possible.
On his heels is Segura, who has once again found his offensive potential in his first season in both Arizona and as a second baseman. He is tied with Murphy for hits on the season and has had an uptick in both his power and on-base percentage as well.
Zobrist has been an RBI machine for the Cubs, providing the exact type of situational punch that he was added for. His .424 on-base percentage is ninth in the NL, while his 27 RBI lead all 2Bs.
Third Base—Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Reserve: Martin Prado, Marlins
Arenado continues to make a potent case for himself as the standard bearer among NL third basemen, as he is tied for the MLB lead in home runs with 12, second in the NL in RBI with 29, while being tops in the NL in total bases and posting a potent 1.025 OPS — all while continuing his sterling play with the glove as well.
Prado has carried over his blistering-hot start at the plate toward mid-May now and posts a .391 average and .419 on-base percentage, tops at the position. While he may not post the raw power or RBI numbers of Kris Bryant or Maikel Franco, his persistence at the plate (13 multi-hit games, including five of three or more hits), makes him the guy here.
Shortstop—Aledmys Diaz, Cardinals
Reserves: Trevor Story, Rockies; Zack Cozart, Reds
The two biggest early surprises of the young MLB season both reside at shortstop in the National League. Diaz joined the Cardinals as the injury replacement for Jhonny Peralta’s injury replacement in Ruben Tejada. He cashed in on the opportunity by emerging to become the first player in MLB history to hit .500 over his first 50 plate appearances and continued to stay steady at a .423/.453/.732 split by month’s end. He has continued to produce at a top three average rate into May. Diaz currently is second the MLB in OPS, at 1.115.
On his heels, however, is an equally historic Trevor Story, who set MLB records for most consecutive games with a home run to start a career and eventually tied Jose Abreu’s rookie record for home runs in April with 10. His pace has slowed some, but he still trails only Arenado in total bases on the year.
Cozart has seen slightly limited playing time, as the Reds are being carefully with his surgically repaired knee, but when he has been in the lineup, he has been relentless. He has nine multi-hit games in 25 played thus far, including 14 extra-base hits.
Outfield—Bryce Harper, Nationals; Ryan Braun, Brewers; Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
Reserves: Dexter Fowler, Cubs; Yoenis Cespedes, Mets; Christian Yelich, Marlins; Starling Marte, Pirates
Harper has become the most feared man in baseball at the plate. After brutalizing NL pitching to start the year in April, becoming NL Player of the Month in the process, he has been walked in nearly half of his plate appearances in May thus far. It remains to be seen if he can do more with less and less, as opponents simply refuse to let the young star beat them. If nothing else, at least he has become a role model among even his most notable peers with the fear and image he has invoked in the still young season.
Joining him in the outfield are Braun and Stanton. A finally healthy Braun is brutalizing the ball for the hapless Brewers, with a .368 average, 26 RBI and 43 hits to date. The juggernaut that is Stanton is keeping up his habit of launching otherworldly home runs, with his shots averaging 424 feet per. Three of these have eclipsed 450 feet, with his 475-foot shot being the longest on the year.
Overall, it has been a phenomenal year for NL outfielders thus far, with Cespedes (league-best 31 RBI), Fowler (MLB-best .467 OBP), Marte (.341 average) and Yelich (.446 on-base percentage, .333 avg) all having phenomenal starts, worthy of being in the starting nine as well.
Pitcher—Jake Arrieta, Cubs
Reserves: Carlos Martinez, Cardinals; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Kenta Maeda, Dodgers; Jason Hammel, Cubs; Noah Syndergaard, Mets; Johnny Cueto, Giants; Madison Bumgarner, Giants; Vincent Velasquez, Phillies; Stephen Strasburg, Nationals; Jon Lester, Cubs; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; A.J. Ramos, Marlins; Fernando Rodney, Padres; Jeurys Familia, Mets
Arrieta is the early front-runner for NL MVP thus far. In April, he made five starts and won the same amount, while allowing four runs over 36 innings and even mixed in a second no-hitter in as many seasons. His 1.13 ERA is tops in the league, as is the .159 average against he carries. To compound the ridiculous even further, Arrieta has not surrendered a lead since Sept. 11 of last year. On the season, he has allowed seven runs across seven starts, while allowing three hits or fewer in four of those seven outings.
Many respects, however, to Kershaw as well, who has struck out an MLB-best 64 batters, while allowing only three walks on the year. He is riding a four-start, double-digit K streak and has not allowed a free pass since April 21.
Final 5 Candidates: Aaron Nola, Phillies; Kris Bryant, Cubs; Tanner Roark, Nationals; Jeanmar Gomez, Phillies; Stephen Piscotty, Cardinals
Catcher—Salvador Perez, Royals
Reserve: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Tigers
Catcher as a whole in the AL is off to a less-than-exciting start. Yet, with that considered, Salvy is still posting the best start of the group. He is getting close to perennial status at catcher in the AL, and his defense has been the prime reason why thus far. While he is still working his way up toward his career averages offensively, Perez has truly shined behind the plate. Thus far, he has cut down over 50 percent of potential base thieves, while leading the circuit in catcher assists as well.
Saltalamacchia has admirably filled in for the injured James McCann and leads the circuit in HR and RBI for a backstop.
First Baseman—Eric Hosmer, Royals
Reserve: Joe Mauer, Twins
Hosmer has gotten off to flaming-hot start at the dish, leading all AL first basemen in hits (39) and OPS (.949). This is in part to highs in slugging percentage and showing a knack for producing the extra-base hit with much greater frequency than in the past.
Pushing up on Hosmer is a revitalized Joe Mauer, who appears more like the formerly sweet-swinging batting champ he was when behind the plate a half decade ago. Mauer currently leads the AL in on-base percentage by a wide margin at .420, along with a three-year high in OPS as well. In just a month’s time, he produced his full season’s WAR from 2015.
Second Baseman—Jose Altuve, Astros
Reserves: Robinson Cano, Mariners; Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
Second base is absolutely loaded this season, with no less than six everyday inhabitants of the position posting numbers that make strong cases for their inclusion.
Yet Altuve continues to stand out among them all. In addition to his usual buffet of on-base, speed and glove-side talents, he has added more pop to his game, slugging eight home runs already, a number that nearly keeps up with his stolen base pace (a league-best 10).
Joining him in the strong start category are Pedroia (second in the AL in hits) and Cano (league-best 12 home runs and 33 RBI).
Third Baseman—Manny Machado, Orioles
Reserve: Nick Castellanos, Tigers
Like second base, the hot corner is full of top-tier producers thus far as well. Machado has continued his rise toward being mentioned among the very best the game has to offer. He is second in the AL in batting average at .365, while leading the Majors in OPS, with a 1.147 mark. In addition, he is tied for second in home runs and first in doubles. His highlight-film level of defense continues, as his legend on the hot corner simply reaffirms itself every game.
Castellanos is only player in the AL whose average is better than Machado’s, at .378. His emergence has been a timely one for the Tigers, who continue to wait for both Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez to round into their standard forms.
Shortstop—Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
Reserves: Carlos Correa, Astros; Francisco Lindor, Indians
Get used to seeing this trio mentioned on AL All-Star rosters, because these three players could be making a lot of them together for the foreseeable future. Currently, Bogaerts has the best case for making the start, as he tops AL shortstops in hits (42), doubles (12) and batting average (.318), while checking in at second in stolen bases (6) and on-base percentage (.377).
Not far behind him in average is Lindor, who is arguably the top defender among the trio and on Bogaerts’ heels in stolen bases (5) and average (.310).
However, it would be ridiculous to not mention Correa, who is the top talent of the group and has the most home runs (5), RBI (16) and highest OPS (.841) of the trio thus far.
Outfield—Mike Trout, Angels; Mark Trumbo, Orioles; Josh Reddick, Athletics
Reserves: George Springer, Astros; Colby Rasmus, Astros; Adam Eaton, White Sox
Outside of the obvious position that Trout has here, as he is predictably leading all AL outfielders in OPS, on-base percentage and total bases, the rest of this outfield is about as unpredictable as it could get.
Mark Trumbo has gotten very comfortable in his new digs in Camden Yards, currently second among AL outfielders in batting average (.320) and home runs (nine), while also sitting in the top three in OPS, RBI and slugging percentage.
Reddick remains first and foremost a defensive force in right field but is swinging a more consistent bat than he has in years. His .325 average is tops among AL outfielders, while his .389 on-base percent is third behind only Trout and Adam Eaton (.391).
Outside of the starters, the rest of the pack of OFs around the league is a tight group, where a few mandatory additions find their places into the mix. The leaders of the pack are Eaton (.300/.391/.400 split line), Rasmus (7 home runs, 28 RBI) and Springer (six home runs, .442 slugging percentage).
Designated Hitter—David Ortiz, Red Sox
Reserve: Victor Martinez, Tigers
It has been quite the farewell tour thus far for Big Papi. He’s top three in the AL in home runs, RBI and OPS, while sitting just outside of the top five in batting average as well. At age 40, he’s the primary reason the Red Sox are off to the torrid start they are, continuing to affirm the fact he is the greatest DH of all time.
Martinez’s return from his knee woes of last year has seen him once again become one of the most persistent and effective on-base machines in the AL. His .333 average is third on the circuit, and he has run up 15 extra-base hits.
Pitcher—Chris Sale, White Sox
Reserves: Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers; Jose Quintana, White Sox; Mat Latos, White Sox; Cole Hamels, Rangers; Drew Smyly, Rays; Taijuan Walker, Mariners; Felix Hernandez, Mariners; Danny Salazar, Indians; David Robertson, White Sox; Wade Davis, Royals; Andrew Miller, Yankees; Steve Cishek, Mariners; Erasmo Ramirez, Rays
Sale has continued the “Adam LaRoche Vengeance Tour” into the regular season and has taken it out on most batters that have stepped in to face him. The filthy lefty has seven wins in seven starts, while holding opponents to a miniscule .165 average against. He has gone at least seven innings in all but one of his starts thus far, while allowing one run over a 24-inning stretch over his final three starts of April.
Final 5 Candidates: Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays; Logan Forsythe, Rays; Ian Kinsler, Tigers; J.A. Happ, Blue Jays; Rich Hill, A’s.
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